Being that this is Alex Rodriguez‘s last week in pinstripes–and more than likely his last week as a major league baseball player–I decided it might be fun to go back and take a look at some of the moments that stand out for me in his career. Now, these aren’t necessarily his most impactful moments, or his most important moments, just the ones I remember most clearly. Those are the moments I want to celebrate.
Allow me to set the scene:
After “struggling” to a .290/.392/.573 slash line and “only” 35 home runs and a “paltry” 121 RBI during the 2006 season (seriously, expectations in New York are insane), Alex faltered mightily in the playoffs. He went 1-14 with just a single against the Tigers in the ALDS, and was even demoted to 8th in the batting order by manager Joe Torre during the series. It was an embarrassment of epic proportions, and many thought the slugger’s relationship with his would never recover. Also, fans had already seen him struggle during the 2005 playoffs, so the narrative was building that Alex couldn’t hit when it mattered most.
This brings us to Saturday, April 7, and a game against the Baltimore Orioles. Alex had gotten off to a decent enough start in 2007, but that disastrous post season was definitely hanging over his head like an albatross.
In the top of the first, the Orioles had taken the lead on a solo home run by Nick Markakis off of soon-to-be pariah, Kei Igawa. In the bottom of that very inning, Alex got his heroic day started by blasting a Steve Trachsel pitch to deep left field for a two-run homer that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. Unfortunately, Kei Igawa was just beginning to reveal to the fans and the organization that he would soon be one of the biggest busts in franchise history. The Japanese “ace” the Yankees had brought over after losing out on the Daisuke Matsuzaka sweepstakes, allowed four runs in the second, and two more in the top of the 4th to extend the deficit to 7-2. The Yankees got one back in the bottom of the inning, but things stayed at 7-3 for the next few frames.
In the bottom of the 8th, Jason Giambi hit a 3-run homer to pull the Bombers to within one run, at 7-6. Alex was due up sixth in the bottom of the ninth, so it didn’t look like he would get a chance to do anything. Adding to the doom, things didn’t start out so well in the bottom of the ninth. Doug Mientkiewicz lined out and Melky Cabrera struck out against Orioles closer Chris Ray, and just like that, the Yankees were down to their last out. Robinson Cano breathed a little life back into the team by singling to keep the inning going, and Ray lost the strike zone a bit, walking Derek Jeter and hitting Bobby Abreu to load the bases.
That brought up ARod.
I remember I had somewhere to go with my mom (I long ago forgot where), but I wanted to watch Alex hit. I made my her wait for the at bat. I didn’t know for sure that Alex would do something to win the game, but I felt like I was watching a very important at bat, even though it was only the fourth game of the season. It felt important for the team–a win against a division opponent is always good to have, and the team had lost two in a row–but mostly it felt like a big moment for Alex.
As we waited, the at bat began. The first pitch was a ball, but Ray came back strong, as Alex took strike one and swung through strike two. Now down to his last strike, all eyes were on Alex. Would he wilt under the pressure of his first “clutch” situation since his failures of the previous October, or would he exorcise at least some of those demons?
If you haven’t already, watch the video and find out.
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